Choosing a color is just one step in the interior-paint buying process. You'll have to decide whether you want oil or latex, flat or glossy and cheap or expensive paint, and  whether you want paint that promises to be low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Here are some expert tips to help you select the right paint for your home:

  • In general, you get what you pay for. Buy the best quality paint you can afford. High-quality paint makes the paint job last longer, is less prone to yellow with age, goes on smoother and is less apt to leave brush marks.
  • Start with a well-prepped surface. Inspect the area with a good lighting source to find any cracks, stains and surface inconsistencies in the surface you plan to paint. If you're painting over new drywall or want to use a light paint over a dark paint, you'll need to apply a primer coat first.
  • Water-based latex paint is best for most situations. Water-based paint wears better over time, is easier to clean up and has fewer odors than oil-based interior paint. The best latex paints are 100 percent acrylic.
  • Consider a low-VOC or no-VOC paint. Paint fumes can cause headaches and nausea. Long-term exposure has also been linked to liver and kidney problems. If you will be working in an area with little ventilation, a paint low in VOCs -- chemicals that are linked to health problems -- might be an especially good idea.
  • Decide on a finish. There are several types of interior paint finishes. Gloss and semigloss paints are great for areas that require frequent cleaning, such as kitchen cabinets and walls. Satin paint has low shine and also is easy to clean. Eggshell, with its barely discernable gloss, is a good choice for bedrooms, living rooms and family rooms. Flat and matte finishes have almost no reflective quality, making them good choices for walls and ceilings with irregularities.
  • Consider trying a small amount of paint to test a bold color. Be sure to look at sample chips at home and at different times of the day. If you can't decide between two paint colors, buy the smallest amount of paint possible (typically a quart) of each color. Then paint separate sections of trim or small areas of wall with each color and decide which you like best.
  • Buy enough paint. Multiply the length of the walls all around the room by their height to get square footage. Add the square footage of the ceiling (if you are painting the ceiling). Subtract out the square footage of the doors and windows, then add 25 percent to that figure. Manufacturers provide information about the coverage you can expect under normal circumstances on the paint can, but a gallon of top-quality paint should cover 350 to 450 square feet. Be sure to buy enough paint, because you'll want extra for touch-ups later. Remember that lighter colors over darker ones will usually require more coats than the other way around.

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